Rockets use what they know about a team of athletes to build team of gamers

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Super Bowl 51 isn't the only title on the line this weekend in Houston.

Two nights before the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons face off, professional video game players went head to head in Madden Bowl, held at the NFL Experience inside the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Up for grabs? $250,000.

Big crowds turned out to watch the gamers face off, all part of the growing industry of eSports.

If you're viewing on our ABC13 news app, tap on the photo above to see more images.

The fans of eSports don't sit on sidelines. They're often watching the action on big screens, and just like sports played on a field or court, eSports crowds are big enough to sell out stadiums.

The games themselves aren't always sports based. Some, like League of Legends, are fantasy worlds. Others, like Call of Duty, are fighting games.

Now, the Houston Rockets are jumping into the arena of eSports, using what they know about building a team of athletes to help put together a team of gamers.

At the helm of the initiative is 25-year-old Sebastian Park. He has run an eSports team before, as head of team Archon. Now, Park is the director of eSports Development for the Rockets.

"eSports and professional video gaming came out of people wanting to watch other people play video games super well and so what I do for the Rockets is try to get us into eSports because it's massive and growing every day," said Park of his new position.

The same way analysts run player statistics, he'll be looking at gamers wins and losses. He even acts like a coach, advising potential new players whether to go pro.

RELATED: Money and video games -- Can you become a pro gamer?

"One of my former players dropped out of college and it was a really rough conversation to have with his parents and we went through all of that together," Park said.

Then there's the business end of his new position.

Other basketball teams have purchased teams of video gamers. However, Park is the first front-office position hired by an NBA franchise to build an organization from the ground up.

"I think it's important for us to understand the industry deeply and make the correct decisions for the long-term growth as opposed to a get rich quick scheme," said Park.

DeAngello Ellis knows the potential of eSports. He started with arcade games, got into competitive gaming and then began promoting eSports meets around Texas with his company Texas Gaming Championships. His meets draw both players and fans, all willing to pay to be a part of the action.

"They like to see the hype, that's mainly what it is," Ellis said of his events that draw hundreds, sometimes thousands, at a cost of $10 a head. "It's hype driven, gets your adrenaline going, same thing as sports."

Both Ellis and Park agree, the eSports industry is on the brink of something big and it's good to have Houston in the middle of it.

"It's getting increasingly hard to ignore eSports as this massive thing, it's almost like everyone is a huge fan of it at this point," added Park.
Copyright © 2019 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.